For Prospective Students

Berkeley's Department of Anthropology administers two PhD programs, one in Anthropology (with tracks in Archaeology, Biological Anthropology, and Sociocultural Anthropology) and one in Medical Anthropology. In addition, the department staffs the independent interdisciplinary MA in Folklore, which has its own website with full information about admissions and requirements. Online application for admission is strongly recommended. Berkeley Anthropology actively seeks to foster a diverse graduate community in partnership with the Division of Social Sciences, and the Disabled Students Program.

Both doctoral programs share a core of requirements. Students must satisfy the Graduate Division requirements of continuous enrollment and register for 12 units when in residency. The normal course of either PhD program can be divided into three stages: Stage one, during year one; Stage two, during years two-three; and Stage three, lasting from years four through six, with the possibility of extension of time in candidacy up to eight years.

Stage one: during the first year, students must enroll in a two-semester seminar appropriate to the specific track, which provides the grounding in theory and methods determined to be necessary by the faculty. At the end of the year, students are evaluated according to distinct procedures established by each track, which may include written and/or oral exams. Successful completion of these first-year evaluations allows students without a previous MA in Anthropology to apply for an MA. There is no MA thesis option for the Anthropology or Medical Anthropology PhD programs. Also during the first year, students are encouraged to fulfill the language requirement by examination or coursework, and to undertake seminars to fulfill any additional requirements of the specific track.

Stage two: beginning no later than the third semester, students begin to work closely with faculty who will be part of their Qualifying Exam committee to develop overviews of specific fields of knowledge embodied in Field Statements. The number of documents required varies by track. Also during this period, students must identify a faculty member in another department who can act as the Outside Member on the exam, and possibly serve in the same role on the dissertation.

Within six semesters, students must complete the Qualifying Exam for admission to candidacy for the PhD, following procedures that vary by program and track. Admission to the Qualifying Exam is based on filing of an acceptable green sheet (Preliminary Announcement of Field Statements) followed by filing of an acceptable yellow sheet (Final Announcement of Field Statements). These forms specify the fields on which the student has prepared written statements, and the sponsors of these field statements, as well as identifying the foreign language in which the student has qualified. The yellow sheet also includes confirmation, where necessary, of necessary requests for research approval by the Committee for the Protection of Human Subjects. The green sheet should be filed as soon as committee members are identified, no later than the end of the fourth semester. The yellow sheet must be filed 60 days in advance of the proposed exam date. Deadlines for the filing of the yellow sheet are not negotiable, as they are required to meet Graduate Division requirements. A dissertation prospectus is required by all programs either in advance of, or as part of, the Qualifying Exam.

Stage three: once admitted to candidacy, students are expected to undertake independent research for the dissertation, and to write the doctoral thesis under the supervision of a dissertation committee which may include some of the members of the Qualifying Exam committee but can be completely or partly different. Students often undertake substantial fieldwork during this stage. Students may enroll in coursework during this period, especially if advised to do so by their committee members. Graduate Division regulations require each student in candidacy to meet regularly with the committee to inform them of progress. Candidates who do not complete the dissertation within twelve semesters may be allowed to continue in candidacy only if the committee chair provides a written assessment of continued progress. After sixteen semesters, permission to continue will be contingent on approval by the Graduate Division.

Further information:

  • Online application for graduate admissions (strongly recommended).
  • Current graduate students prepared to answer questions about the program.
  • Recent Berkeley doctoral graduates: where are they now?
  • Information about Diversity and Graduate Admissions in the Social Sciences.
  • Graduate Students with Disabilities

The campus offers many different resources for graduate students with disabilities. The purpose of an academic accommodation is to offer the graduate student an equal opportunity to meet the department’s academic standards and requirements. The Disabled Students Program at (510) 642-0518 serves graduate students with disabilities (who complete the process for establishing eligibility) by authorizing academic accommodations. Disabled Access Services at (510) 643-6473 or 643-6456 can usually assist with accommodations to extra-curricular events. Most physical access issues are addressed in the Campus Access Guide. Finally, problems with accommodations may be reported to the campus Disability Resolution Officer at (510) 642-2795.

The Language Requirement

The Department of Anthropology requires all students to demonstrate proficiency in at least one language in addition to English. This may be a language of international scholarship, a literary language, or a field language. The student's committee may require study of more than one language. The language in which the departmental requirement is satisfied must be relevant to the proposed doctoral research project. The language requirement must be satisfied before a student is eligible to arrange the PhD Oral Qualifying Examination. Students can satisfy the requirement by Coursework, native language competence, or Departmental Examination.

Completion of five college quarters, or four college semesters of a required language with a minimum average grade of "B-" satisfies the language requirement. There are Graduate Division regulations governing how recently coursework must have been completed.

A student whose native language is not English may offer that native language as his or her required language. The native language may comprise the requirement only if the advisor and the Department determine that no other language is necessary for the dissertation project. The Department may require a student to demonstrate competence in the native language in a written or oral examination.

A student may fulfill his or her language requirement by passing a Departmental Examination in the required language. The Department offers examinations twice each year in French, German, and Spanish, and examinations in other languages may be arranged. Departmental language exams consist of translating a 300-word passage in a 90-minute time period with the aid of a dictionary, but without a grammar or verb collection. Sample past exams may be examined in the office of the Graduate Student Affairs Officer. Exam times are announced on the graduate listserv.

Field Statements

Field statements are bibliographical essays on areas of specialization that are to address substantive areas of research. Each is a critical summary and analysis of issues and debates in the field of knowledge. Faculty sponsors will work with the student in the definition of these fields, through student enrollment in regularly scheduled seminars, independent study, or guided research without enrollment.

First-year evaluations

At the end of the first year each student is evaluated, and may be required to take an oral examination by a group of faculty members. The first-year evaluation serves to identify a student's strengths, direction and potential weak areas needing further study before the student begins preparation for the Ph.D. Oral Qualifying Examination. A recommendation about continuation within the graduate program is made on the basis of performance during this examination and the student's academic work throughout the first year. Any student may be requested to leave the graduate program, even though the oral examination was judged passing, if the student's academic work was judged weak and the department's faculty is concerned that a student will not complete the program satisfactorily.

Qualifying exam

Generally taken between the end of the second year and the end of the third year this is a three-hour oral examination engaging the fields the student has chosen but also any other material the committee deems relevant. The exam committee includes four faculty members: the orals committee chair, two "inside members" and one "outside member." The chair of the orals committee cannot later serve as chair of the dissertation committee. The orals committee chair and at least one other committee member must be part of the permanent faculty of the Anthropology department. The student's advisor and prospective dissertation chair is normally one of the inside members of the committee. The second inside member can be an Anthropology professor or someone from another department on campus. The outside member must be from a UCB department other than anthropology and must be a member of UCB's Academic Senate. The outside member is the Dean of the Graduate Division's representative on the exam committee and is there to ensure that the exam is fairly run.

The Dissertation Committee

This committee must consist of at least three professors: the student's advisor as the committee chair, an inside member from the Anthropology department, and an outside member from another department at UCB. While three members is typical, a student may elect to include an additional member on his or her committee. An additional member may be from a school other than UCB if the research expertise represented cannot be found within the Berkeley faculty. This committee is proposed to the Dean of Graduate Division as part of advancement to candidacy. Committee members read and sign the dissertation. The committee chair also signs the dissertation abstract. There is no required thesis defense.